Nature therapy: Best day hikes throughout San Diego
by BLAKE BUNCH
Published - 05/18/18 - 11:47 AM | 8972 views | 0 0 comments | 32 32 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Two hikers stop at the top of the Ho Chi Minh trail leading to Black’s Beach on Tuesday, May 15. BLAKE BUNCH/VILLAGE NEWS
Two hikers stop at the top of the Ho Chi Minh trail leading to Black’s Beach on Tuesday, May 15. BLAKE BUNCH/VILLAGE NEWS
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Cedar Creek Falls, located in Ramona, had plenty of water flowing this April. JENNI COOK/VILLAGE NEWS
Cedar Creek Falls, located in Ramona, had plenty of water flowing this April. JENNI COOK/VILLAGE NEWS
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The trail leading to Cedar Creek Falls on a stormy March day, BLAKE BUNCH/VILLAGE NEWS
The trail leading to Cedar Creek Falls on a stormy March day, BLAKE BUNCH/VILLAGE NEWS
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Depending on rainfall, there is a stream that runs through the Santa Ysabel Open Space Parcel. BLAKE BUNCH/VILLAGE NEWS
Depending on rainfall, there is a stream that runs through the Santa Ysabel Open Space Parcel. BLAKE BUNCH/VILLAGE NEWS
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Although La Jolla has been clouded by the “May gray” marine layer in recent mornings, by midday the sun is out in full effect. While it may seem counter-intuitive to head inland to escape the heat, at the right time of day, the combination of fresh water and elevation breezes can spell utter relief.

Possessing two of San Diego’s most frequented trails, the Ho Chi Minh and Broken Hill trails (although Broken Hill is undergoing construction), La Jollans take great pride in ownership of these astounding coastal views. With spring coming to a close, and summer right around the corner, the La Jolla Village News has provided a guide to some of the best day hikes in or near San Diego.

While some of these entail a decent amount of driving, but at the end of the day, one’s satisfaction after completing these hikes can be worth much more than time or money.

‘Ho Chi Minh’ trail to Black’s Beach (1 mile)

It may be seen as a right-of-passage at some point during any La Jollan’s life, Ho Chi Minh is arguably one of the more popular trails in San Diego.

There is no fee to enter the trail, but it can be a bit difficult to find.

Turn on to La Jolla Farms Road, continue for nearly a mile until cars/hikers/surfers begin to appear. There is a break in a wrought iron-and-wooden fence, with a falling rock sign, that opens up into a trail. Simply follow the trail passed razor ferns, across a makeshift bridge and scurry down the rope to hit the beach.

If not comfortable climbing down the winding trail, it is advised to take one of the main fire roads prior to the trailhead, down to the beach.

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve trails

Perhaps some of the most idyllic coastal vistas in California, the trails at Torrey Pines can be ideal for a day out with the family, a quick run to get the blood flowing, or for photographers to grab the perfect sunset shot.

“A natural reserve status is assigned to an area of importance, and typically is one that contains threatened plants, animals, habitats, or unique geological formations,” the trail website reads, so be mindful of this area’s protected status.

Unfortunately, two of the most popular trails, Broken Hill and North Fork trails, are closed for the next few months.

Located at 12600 N Torrey Pines Road, and encompassing 3.1-square-miles, it should be noted that this location is a reserve and not a park. For more information, call 858-755-2063.

Cedar Creek Falls Trail (5.2 miles)

Located in Cleveland National Forest, east of Escondido, this titular highlight of this hike is the falls themselves, a perfect way to cool off during a hot day. Be forewarned, however, water levels at the falls vary substantially throughout the year.

The falls typically do not run during the summer months when the pool at the base of the falls is stagnant and filled with algae. It is recommended to have at least a gallon of water for each person for this moderate hike.

For more information, visit the station at the trailhead, located at 15519 Thornbush Road in Ramona, or call 760-788-0250. Also, it is necessary to purchase a permit at recreation.gov/permits ahead of time.

Los Penasquitos Canyon Trail (6.8 miles)

Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve is an urban park stretching approximately seven miles. The park encompasses some 4,000 acres of both Peñasquitos and Lopez canyons and is one of the largest urban parks in the United States. 

Offering an adventurous hike (but relatively easy), cool streams and smaller series of waterfalls, Los Penasquitos Canyon trail can often be rather crowded, so it is advised to go early in the morning or late afternoon to avoid crowds.

Located at 12020 Black Mountain Road. The park closes at 7 p.m. daily. For more information, call 619-525-8213. This is a great hike for families,

Three Sisters Falls Trail (4.5 miles)

“Three Sisters” is a true San Diego gem, but is not to be trifled with – especially during the warmer months.

It is an oft-too-frequent occurrence that people underestimate the gradient of this hike (not for beginners), as well as the loose sand that comprises it.

If you’re lucky enough to get out on the trail after a heavy rain, however, it will make trudging through the heat all the more worth it.

It should also be noted that this out-and-back trail has an elevation gain of 1,036 feet, which can make hiking back out a bit tiresome.

Trailhead located at 14850 Boulder Creek Road in Julian. For more information, visit fs.usda.gov/recarea/cleveland.

Mission Trails Regional Park

Mission Trails Regional Park truly offers something for every level of hiker.

From hanging out by the Old Mission Dam (not in protected areas), to trying out actual rock climbing, to quick, steep elevation, jumps, or just biking around, the park draws a vast array of sportsmen.

Some favored trails are Cowles Mountain (the highest point in San Diego), Pyles Peak, Kwaay Paay Peak, South Fortuna Mountain and North Fortuna Mountains (both take several hours).

From these peaks and mountainous trails, one is provided with a view of San Diego unlike any other.

For more information, visit mtrp@mtrp.org, or call 619-668-3277. Located at 1 Father Junipero Serra Trail.

Iron Mountain Trail (5.2 miles)

Within close proximity to the popular Mt. Woodson (Potato Chip Rock) Trail, Iron Mountain offers a less-congested alternative to waiting in line to take an optical illusion photo. While the trail area is well-manicured, during peak hours there is little shade, so be sure to wear plenty of sunblock.

With an elevation gain of 1,102 feet, Iron Mountain is one of the highest peaks in Poway. Apparently, on clear days, hikers can catch a glimpse of Catalina Island from the summit.

Trailhead located at 14847-14909 CA-67. For more information, visit alltrails.com/trail/us/california/iron-mountain-trail—5.

Santa Ysabel Open Space Preserve

Actually two separate land parcels, Santa Ysabel East and West preserves allow for the introspective hiker to nearly fully escape into nature. With several shaded picnic areas off the trail, it is quite easy to get caught up in a 2.5-hour-long lunch.

Although this land is still in use by cattle ranchers (they can often be found napping in/along the trail), it simply provides another facet to make it that much more of a “California” hike.

Located at 29759 Old Julian Highway in Ramona.
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